How to Access a Secret Login Console in Mac OS
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Some versions of Mac OS support the ability to login any user account directly to the command line right from the traditional login screen, thereby bypassing the familiar Mac user interface. Instead you’re essentially signing a user directly into the Terminal (a bit like using the ssh client to connect to an SSH server), without having to load the desktop, Finder, WindowServer, or any other frills of the GUI. This can be handy for advanced users who need quick access to the complete command line from a particular user account, but want to skip the complete login and loading of the Mac OS graphical environment. Keep in mind not all versions of system software support this feature however, so it’ll take a bit of discovery to determine which do and which do not.
Before diving in, realize this is really only for advanced Mac users thoroughly comfortable with the command line environment. It’s also important to point out the hidden login Console / Terminal is completely different from Single User Mode or the Recovery Mode Terminal, which are supported on all Macs and Mac OS versions. For one, with the Console Login trick you can login directly as any user on the Mac with user level privileges, whereas Single User Mode always uses a root login with many system services and processes disabled, and is aimed for more administrative purposes. Two common uses of Single User Mode are repairing a disk with fsck and changing an admin password, or other troubleshooting tasks. Single User Mode and Recovery Terminal are really best for troubleshooting and is not an appropriate environment for more generic command line interactions, but the direct Console login can be used just like you would the Terminal app.
Does my MacOS version support Login Terminal / Console?
Console Login is not supported by all versions of Mac OS or Mac OS X. The Console login feature appears to be supported in Mac OS X 10.9.x (Mavericks), 10.8.x (Mountain lion), 10.7.x (Lion), 10.6.x (Snow Leopard), Leopard, Tiger, etc but may or may not be supported in MacoS Mojave (10.14) macOS 10.13.x (High Sierra), macOS 10.12.6 (Sierra), OS X 10.11.6 (El Capitan), or 10.10 Yosemite. Feel free to report in the comments below if you have success with this or not, and your version of system software.
You can attempt to enable the login console in Mac OS / Mac OS X with the following defaults command, and then reboot the Mac to then follow the directions further below to see if you can access the login screen terminal:
sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow.plist "DisableConsoleAccess" NO
If you attempt to load the Console from login screen on an unsupported Mac, you will either just see a blank black screen which appears to be inescapable, requiring you to forcibly reboot the Mac, or you will briefly see a flash of white text on the black screen, and then a blank black screen that also requires a reboot to escape. If you know of a way around this, share with us in the comments.
How to Access a Terminal at Login Screen in Mac OS
Note you must have automatic login turned off on the Mac, otherwise you will not have access to the login screen on boot from which to access the console. Remember, not all versions of Mac OS support this feature.
- Reboot the Mac as usual
- At the login screen, choose “Other”
- For username, type the following and then hit return – no password is necessary yet
- Hit the Return key
- If successful, you will see a login prompt at the command line, as if you just booted up a unix environment without a windowing environment, now enter a user name and password to login directly to the command line as that user
- NOTE: If unsuccessful, the screen will turn black and you will have to force reboot the Mac by holding down the Power key to exit
Assuming you successfully logged into the login Console, you will have full access to everything you would in a normal Terminal environment, but without any of the Mac OS graphical interface. You can exit out of this environment by rebooting from the command line with the shutdown or reboot commands.
Note you can access the “Other” field whenhiding the login user name list or with the list of users at the logins screen enabled, but it will not work with Automatic Login enabled.
This is a little known trick, and that it’s supported in some versions of Mac OS but not in others further muddies the waters of when and where it will work, and if support has been pulled from modern versions (it appears to be missing from the latest macOS releases). MacWorld referenced the secret login Terminal some time ago and uncovered discussion of the trick from way back in 2002, suggesting that the console login may work in all earlier versions of Mac OS X but not in the most recent versions. To find out definitively what versions support the capability, user exploration in a wide variety of more recent Mac OS releases would be necessary. I was able to successfully access Terminal via the login console on a Mac running Mavericks, but not on a Mac running High Sierra or Sierra, for example. It’s entirely possible this feature is gone for good in modern macOS releases, in which case this will only apply to older Mac OS X system software.
Were you able to access the Login Console on your Mac or with your version of Mac OS? Share your experience in the comments below, and if you know any other tips or tricks relating to the little known login terminal screen, share those too.
How to Remove Stuck Time Machine Backups from Mac Trash Due to System Integrity Protection Error
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If you’re trying to remove a Time Machine backup from a drive and find that it’s stuck in the Mac Trash with a specific error message stating the trash can’t be emptied because “Some items in the Trash cannot be deleted because of System Integrity Protection”, then read on to learn how to resolve this particular Time Machine backup removal problem.
Note: this troubleshooting walkthrough is focused exclusively on when a Time Machine backup is stuck in the Trash with the accompanying SIP related error message stating “Some items in the Trash cannot be deleted because of System Integrity Protection” with three options available, ‘Cancel’, ‘Remove Unlocked Items’, and ‘Remove All Items’ – the fixes discussed here will address this error message pertaining to SIP limits on removal of Time Machine backups specifically. There are other possible reasons (and solutions) as to why a Time Machine backup can get stuck in the Trash and nearly impossible to delete, including the seemingly endless “preparing to empty the Trash” message with Time Machine backups, which can also prevent a backup from being trashed the regular way. If you do not see the ‘System Integrity Protection’ error message when trying to remove the Time Machine backup then skip this walkthrough and instead focus on this guide, or even just deleting old Time Machine backups from Time Machine directly on the Mac.
How to Fix Stuck Time Machine Backups in Mac Trash with “items in the Trash cannot be deleted because of System Integrity Protection” Error
As the “Some items in the Trash cannot be deleted because of System Integrity Protection” error message implies, the reason the Time Machine backup is stuck in the Trash and unable to be deleted is because System Integrity Protection, or SIP, is enabled and protecting that particular backup from removal. SIP is a feature that locks down important system files to prevent their removal, but in this particular case it’s also preventing the removal of an old Time Machine backup file. Thus, we’ll temporarily disable SIP, trash the stuck Time Machine backup, then re-enable SIP. Here are the full steps:
- Backup the Mac before beginning, either with Time Machine or otherwise
- Go to the Apple menu and choose “Restart” to reboot the Mac
- Once you hear the boot sound or see the Apple logo on screen, press and hold COMMAND and R keys concurrently to boot the Mac into Recovery Mode
- Once you see the “MacOS Utilities” (or “OS X Utilities”) screen you’re in Recovery Mode, ignore the initial onscreen options and instead pull down the “Utilities” menu at the top of the screen and then select “Terminal”
- At the command line prompt, enter the following command string:
- Hit “Return” on the keyboard to disable SIP and instantly restart the Mac again
- Let the Mac boot up as usual with System Integrity Protection disabled
- When the Mac has finished booting up, return to placing the old Time Machine backup in the Mac Trash can and then choose “Empty Trash” to remove the stuck Time Machine backup *
- Once the trash emptying process has completed and the once stuck Time Machine backup is deleted, you can now reboot the Mac and re-enable System Integrity Protection
- Restart the Mac as usual and immediately hold down COMMAND + R keys again to enter into Recovery Mode
- Again pull down the ‘Utilities’ menu and choose “Terminal” then enter the following command string to enable SIP:
- Hit return to restart the Mac up again as usual, this time with System Integrity Protection enabled again, where you can use the Mac as usual
csrutil disable; reboot
csrutil enable; reboot
(Note that deleting a Time Machine backup by dumping it into the Trash and emptying the Trash can take quite a while, so be prepared for that. If the backup is huge, you might want to let it sit overnight as it empties from the Trash successfully, in which case you still want to resume the steps to enable SIP again afterwards.)
Assuming you followed the instructions correctly, you should not see the “Some items in the Trash cannot be deleted because of System Integrity Protection” error message when trying to delete the stuck Time Machine backup from Mac Trash again, it will just empty the Trash as normal.
It’s very important to enable System Integrity Protection again on the Mac, as it offers security and privacy protection benefits that won’t work if it’s disabled. Don’t skip that step after you successfully trash the stuck Time Machine backup file.
* If you are still encountering problems, you can either go to the command line and forcibly delete the backups from the Trash with these instructions, or you can put back the stuck Time Machine backup file and focus on the dated specific backup folder you want to delete, these are contained inside the “Backup.backupdb” directory.
Alternative Method: Using tmutil to Properly Remove the Time Machine Backup
** Another option is to use the command line tmutil command, which is a more proper way to delete an old Time Machine backup in the first place.
To try this approach, you need to have the Time Machine backup in its original location on the backup drive, so first go to the Trash in MacOS and right-click on the stuck backup and choose “Put Back”. Then do the following:
- Open the “Terminal” application found in /Applications/Utilities/
- Type the following command string, replacing “DRIVENAME” with the name of the Time Machine backup volume, and replacing “SPECIFICBACKUPNAME” with the specific dated backup folder you’re trying to delete:
- Hit return and enter the admin password as required by sudo, this will instantly delete the Time Machine backup with tmutil
sudo tmutil delete /Volumes/DRIVENAME/Backups.backupdb/SPECIFICBACKUPNAME
However you resolved the issue, once the stuck Time Machine backup is trashed and removed successfully, you can resume using Time Machine for backups on the Mac as usual.
Time Machine is a great feature, and all Mac users should regularly use Time Machine to backup their entire Mac and personal data so that if something goes awry they can easily restore their machine and data to its proper state.
Did the above trick work for you to successfully remove the stuck Time Machine backups from the Mac Trash? Did you use one method or another, or a different entirely? Share with us in the comments below!